Johannesburg - Professor Jakes Gerwel died in the early hours of Wednesday morning at the Kuilsriver Hospital, said his family.
The 66-year-old professor was reported to be in a critical condition on Tuesday after he underwent heart surgery.
“The Gerwel family would like their privacy to be respected for the next couple of days. Funeral arrangement will be made known soon,” said a statement from the family spokeswoman, Pam Barron.
Gerwel was a well-known figure in South Africa's political history and in his later years, he chaired and was on the board of major organisations and corporations.
His early life's work was mostly as an academic in roles which included educational adviser to the SA Students' Organisation, as a lecturer, as chancellor of Rhodes University, and later as rector of the University of the Western Cape.
He was also director general in the office of former president Nelson Mandela.
He also served as chairman of Media24 and Life Healthcare, and was the chairman of the board of trustees of the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. - Sapa